When it first happened I was at a spanish language school for a semester down in Costa Rica. With a bunch of mainly Europeans. We watched it happening live on the news like everyone. The Euros immediately jumped at the chance to make comments like “serves them right” or “it was only a matter of time”. And though I understood the sentiment, it was too horrific for me to go down that path in that moment. I was more in shock, and worried about all my friends in NYC.
The only other American at the school, a college kid named Heath, and I got called to the American Embassy in San Jose, where we stayed with a bunch of other Americans, tourists and fishermen mostly, for a number off hours. Eventually released and told it would be a few days before we could fly back to the US. Told not to go out and cause any trouble. Keep a low profile.
So off we went to a brothel where we spent the next two days passing the time trying to drink and fuck the pain away. What the Euros at our school didn’t understand was that although we were every bit as aware of and cynical about the last two-hundred years of violent American imperialism, America was still our home. Americans were still our friends family and neighbors.
When i got back to the States we hit the studio to finish working on the Sleep With You album. But we interrupted those sessions to record a song to help donate to various 9/11 charities. That songs being “Rebuild America”. What I was taken with the most back then was how resilient the country was in the face of such a horrific event. How much it unified us. We didn’t get down or depressed. We got all flagged up, amped up and proud. At the time it felt better than going dark.
So the song ended up being more patriotic and uplifting than our normal fare. I still find it hard to believe that a song called “Rebuild America” is associated with us/me in any way. If you would have told me five to ten years before that that I’d have a single out in the future called Rebuild America i would have asked “is it ironic? Did I lose my mind? Or go mad? Did i lose my cool?” If you would have then replied “no not at all. America got attacked. Like Pearl Harbor scale attack. You did the song in earnest.” Yeah. Perhaps I would understand.
Critics used the song as easy pickings to chastise me for a few years after. Implying that it betrayed “coolness”. Perhaps it does. But I don’t regret it. Because it was real. You had to be there. I always thought that was a cheap shot. Because that event was such a viscerally upsetting moment for many of us. And we needed the release. Regardless of where we lined up on the political fence, it hurt.
There was, looking back now, such a strong subconscious react to that kind of intense shock and violence that manifested in extreme positivity and patriotism. Even for those of us who knew the dark seedy underbelly of United States foreign policy. I had never seen anything like it, that kind of avid patriotism. Maybe Rocky IV Cold War era stuff.
Of course it all went down hill quickly from there and we turned all that patriotism into more violence and empire building. Used it as an excuse to finally take over the rest of the Middle East region of the globe sans Iran, and Saudi Arabia, where the attacks actually originated from, but as they say thou dost not shit in your own backyard and the United States has had Arabia in its backyard for fifty years. Hence allowing one little family to prop up a dictatorship and add their name “Saudi” to the name of an entire country. Disgraceful. But whatever.
further on down the road we learned about the dubious nature of the events themselves… and many now believe it to be an inside job. See the documentaries called Loose Change on youtube. But for a brief moment at least we saw potential in America. It just didn’t last. Very sad.
I saw the planes crash into us
I saw the people cry
I saw the buildings come crumbling
I saw the rescuers sigh
I saw the president weep
On national TV
I saw the volunteers sweeping
To clean the New York City streets
As we try
Yes we try
To rebuild America
The land of our fathers
The land of our mothers
We are not alone